A court in Murcia has ruled on a landmark case, that could see thousands of victims of the property bust receive refunds for deposits and part payments, as the responsibility for ensuring guarantees in some cases is been confirmed as being that of the bank.
Spanish solicitor Oscar Ricor, of law firm Ricor Abogados, (www.ricorabogados.com), has been fighting the case for a couple who had innocently put down a deposit on an “off-plan” home, believing that their property would be built in the time stated, but suffered the loss of their money as the developer had ceased trading.
However, in this particular case, the bank had issued a guarantee to the developer, which stated that they would indeed provide funding for the project, ensuring that the money received from clients in what could be a risky investment, would in fact be secure.
The problem came when the time frame for the bank guarantee ran out. Although the bank confirmed that they would be financially backing the project, this assurance was dated and had become time expired.
That is where this ruling has become “landmark” in the decision from the judge, who has ruled that the banks cannot date such guarantees, and that if they have, then that time frame of validity is invalid, and the guarantee remains in place until such point as the building becomes finished.
This case is different to many which are ongoing through the courts, such as class actions against a number of developers who have actually built properties, but are as yet incomplete or “technically” habitable. In this case, the developer took the deposit from the buyers but failed to build anything, or have commenced building, but the building could not possibly be used.
Mr Ricor explained to The Leader that, “It is all a question of scale. In some instances, properties have been built, and are just waiting for documentation to say that they can be inhabited. In this case, the developer hadn´t even started building, but even if they had laid the foundations, or built part of the structure, if the building is far from complete, then it would and should qualify for coverage of the bank guarantee scheme, in order to claim directly the refund of the deposits from the bank or insurance entity”.
The clients in this particular case have to remain anonymous whilst a further, totally separate criminal case is ongoing against the developer, but they issued a statement which read, "Without the dogged determination of Oscar Ricor, we would not be in the happy position of having our deposit monies returned to us. We are extremely grateful for his support. Unfortunately, many other Northern Europeans have not been so lucky. It has been a very stressful six years making what should have been a happy early retirement a period of anxiety and illness. With this landmark decision, we can now move on with our lives here in Spain."
There are countless cases going through the courts against builders and developers of properties in Spain, some of which are likely to take ten years or more to resolve, but the benefit of this case shows that once a case of this type is brought to the courts, it can theoretically be resolved very quickly, with victims managing to receive their money back in a very short time, although not without having their hopes and dreams shattered along the way.
“There is now hope for a lot of people in this situation”, continued Mr Ricor, “Although it must be made clear that every case is different and is judged on its own merits, by a court ruling in favour of the buyer, this puts a totally different angle on how we can approach cases of this nature, and for the first time, the legal structure in Spain is not favouring the large institutions, but is standing alongside those of us who have been fighting for justice for many years already”.
Having said that, Mr Ricor also pointed out that this does not affect the rights of anybody who may already have a case pending, and dealing with those responsible through the criminal courts will still be continuing, albeit at a slower rate than this, but he affirmed, “I for one will not rest until those unscrupulous crooks who have stolen from innocent buyers are brought to face criminal charges, but now with the added bonus of having the possibility for a refund whilst the criminal case runs concurrently.”